Tag Archives: Black History Month

Engaging Black History Month: Making All Our Stories Matter

1 Feb

When I was a child nothing excited me more than hearing what my mother used to refer to as her ‘long time stories’. She only shared these stories when her relatives gathered together (this was on rare occasions), but when she did share them it was magical for me. They were a way for me to know my grandmother and grandfather, who had both died when my mother was a child.  Hearing of my grandmother’s strength and even about how her fingers were long and crooked like mine somehow helped me feel connected to her. I learned about my mother’s home, a place I’d never been to but that I developed an intimate bond with as it came to life for me in her detailed and animated accounts.  I also learned of the struggles my mother, her sister and brother faced, and the compromises they made to survive the challenges of being poor, orphaned and black in a British West Indian colony in the 1940s.

ImageIt was only as I grew older that the fact that these stories were so utterly precious was revealed to me. They were a testament to the creativity, resilience and survival of these communities.  They also offered an important oral narrative of some of the ways that gender, race, poverty and violence were critical to who my mother and family became, and also to the conditions of the larger communities that we were a part of. As a child, I did not encounter these stories in my history books, in the news, or on television. These stories were quiet ‘private’ memories that did not really seem to matter in public spaces.

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As we celebrate Black History month this February, we are given the opportunity to reflect on why these stories do matter, while commemorating the losses, sacrifices, and victories of diverse Black communities across the globe. Black History Month, which began as a week-long tribute in 1926, has evolved into the month long event we mark today, and as we take the time acknowledge the significant contributions and ongoing struggles of Black folk across the world, it is also critical that we never stop asking the questions: Whose stories are still not acknowledged? Whose stories do we attend to more often? How do we ensure that we are open to the diverse stories within our communities- our transtories, herstories and madstories, among others? How do we value these diverse contributions? Here at Nellies, we are committed to challenging violence and oppression, and to building equitable communities where all of our stories matter. So let us commune, celebrate, question and continue to share—Happy Black Stories Month!

*written by Nellie’s Shelter staff member.

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Celebrating Black History Month

9 Feb

February is Black History Month,  a time to honour and celebrate the histories of Black, Caribbean and African communities. Black History Week was first recognized in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson who wanted to raise awareness and understanding in the school curriculum of the African experience around the world.  In the 1960s this celebration was expanded to become Black History Month.

This year at Nellie’s our focus is on the history of Black Women.  We asked the women at our shelter what this month means to them and how they chose to honour it. This is what they had to say:

Black History Month is…

  • A reminder of freedom and the suffering that the black community has endured throughout the years, such as slavery, stereotyping, discrimination and isolation.  It continues today.
  • A time to reflect and remember the leaders that have devoted their lives and made changes not only for themselves, but the for the community as a whole.  We remember Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcom X, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey to name a few.
  • A reminder of the ongoing struggle of the black community and how they still suffer in Canada today.   It allows our experiences not to be hidden and give voice to our struggle.
  • A good remember to raise awareness, fight for changes not only during February but each and every day.
  • An opportunity to focus on black women’s experiences of intergenerational trauma.
  • A time to reflect and recognize who our allies were in history.
  • A time to be reminded to fight for equity and human rights for our communities.
  • A time to mourn, a time to remember, a time to celebrate and time take action.

Throughout February we commemorate Black History Month at the shelter.  We celebrate by sharing stories from Black, Caribbean and African Women who have fought for change throughout history because we know that many of these powerful stories remain unwritten. Celebrated author and poet Maya Angelou said  “We want to reach a time when there won’t be Black History Month, when black history will be so integrated into American history that we study it along with every other history.”   During our celebrations we invite women to read aloud her inspirational poem “Still I Rise.”  Our hope and commitment at Nellies is that this celebration of Black History will continue beyond February and that anti-racist activism continues until justice is achieved for all.

Introducing Nellie’s Social Justice Series

26 Jan

Nellie’s mission reflects our vision for social change through education and advocacy, to achieve social justice for all women and children. This year we’re very excited to launch a new blog series that will focus on  this work  through the action and accomplishments of Nellie’s Social Justice Committee.

The Social Justice Committee is comprised of staff and community volunteers who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in areas such as feminism, anti-oppression training, counselling, education, advocacy, business, law, program management, and journalism.  Members meet every month to: discuss relevant issues; conduct research; develop Nellie’s position papers; plan and attend social justice community events and action; work with various community partners to build coalitions; engage in public policy consultations; and raise awareness on racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, and sexism and how these issues impact women and children.

In 2011, some key committee accomplishments of the committee included:

– Attendance at Community Events including Take Back the Night, International Women’s Day March and Fair, Dyke March, and Toronto Pride Week

Community Election Forum and Poverty Reduction Forum for women at the shelter and in the community

– Presentation of Nellie’s Women and Mental Health Position Paper at the Psych Out Conference in New York

-Research and writing of Nellie’s Women & Accessibility Paper that is scheduled to be released in April 2012

All the work done by the committee is rooted in the community and informed by the experiences of the women and children we work with.  The events we participate in and plan seek to engage and empower residents and clients of Nellie’s to use their voice to speak out and participate in change, all while moving towards our goal of economic and political equality for all women and children.

This year Nellie’s Social Justice Committee will be providing a formal blog update once a month on Thursdays.  Our first blog series will be out in February for Black History Month.

Stay tuned!  If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of our posts, you can subscribe to our blog by clicking the link on the right.